Today is a half day, yet I’m not taking vacation time or sick leave for the remainder of the work day. The library is closing at noon, not for lack of business on Friday afternoons or a professional workshop that everyone’s attending, but because we have to leave town. Reel in the imagination–we are not gun-slinging outlaw librarians being chased out by a pitchfork-yielding mob. We are running from Gustav, whose name to me evokes Oktoberfest, Bavarian chocolate, and a possible distant relation to Heidi Klum, but who is in reality a storm that has set the Louisiana coast in his sights exactly three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
Yesterday, the university decided to take preventative measures: cancel classes beginning today and send all of the students to safer locations, whether that be home or to a university in a safer area…just in case. Immediately, the library became a frantic place, full of students and faculty all clambering to make final arrangements before evacuating. Most of the problems related to getting Blackboard accounts and e-reserves up to date so that everyone could continue studies from remote locations.
Just as with Katrina, Gustav threatens at the end of the first week of classes, so some students find themselves having to continue studies in a class they have not yet attended. However, as I tried to help them situate their class schedules, I felt that I needed to be something more to them. So many were freshman, from somewhere other than this hurricane ravaged and threatened city. I wanted to hug them and tell them “thank you” for taking a chance on this place and that I was so sorry that this had to happen on their first week here when they had barely unpacked their things and set up their dorm rooms.
I can now only hope that like before Katrina, this storm will threaten and turn away from us–save us from the destruction that it would surely bring to this fragile city because we deserve more time to rebuild and more time to prove to those young students that they made a good and ultimately rewarding decision to spend their college days in New Orleans. For now, though, it’s time to go and wait on Gustav to make his decision.
Interim Public Services Librarian
New Orleans, LA